I’ve gotten into the habit of striving to be gender-neutral at work. Nobody told me to do this, it just sort of happened.
I think it started after I had kids. Given the lack of women in leadership at large law firms, I figured I’d have to downplay my mommyhood to get ahead. So my appointment at the pediatrician’s office became “important meeting with client”on my calendar. I became an expert in using the mute button on my mobile phone and quieting noisy children. I took great care not to complain at work about sick kids or daycare drama.
But somewhere in the process, something else happened. Somewhere, deep down, I started to apologize for my gender. Sometimes, this apologetic tone is overt – like my unsolicited confession that I am leaving the office early to pick up my daughter at piano. “I know I’m leaving early today, but my sitter has to study for exams. I’ll be in early tomorrow morning.” Even though I’m a partner and theoretically my own boss, I still feel the need to explain my actions — and to seek pardon from the entire office.
But usually, my apologies are more subtle, even unintentional. Like when I get up in the morning and get dressed for work: while my favorite leopard-skin blazer is calling me, instead, I reach into the closet for black and grey. The subliminal fashion police are telling me to appear neutral, especially if there is an important meeting scheduled. Besides, my sixth-grade son recently announced that leopard-skin clothing is not “professional.” I decide to blend in.
I’ve even assumed at times, wrongly, than my gender is a disadvantage in business. While women make up over 46% of the workforce, it’s no secret that women struggle to hold the highest positions in management. Only 4 in 10 businesses worldwide have women in senior management, and women earn less than men in 99 % of all occupations. By saying gender matters, am I just perpetuating these trends?
A recent experience caused me to rethink this. [Click here to read the rest of this post at The High Calling]
I have a law school classmate I’ll call Jim. His personal life is a wreck. He’s been married and divorced a couple of times, and he cheats on his current wife. Jim can’t say no to a beautiful woman or a martini, and he tends to run in fast circles, both on and off the clock. Everyone at his work office knows about his recreational habits, but with a nod and a wink they turn a blind eye.
Let’s just say they know better than to walk into his office without knocking first.
But here’s the thing about Jim. He’s a brilliant lawyer. He’s at the top of his game, and so far as I can tell, his personal life doesn’t appear to compromise the quality of his work. Sure, his closest friends worry that he’s going to have one martini (or one woman) too many and really get into trouble, but most of his friends and colleagues defend his lifestyle.
“Jim is a fantastic lawyer. What he does in private is nobody’s business!”
[To continue reading, click here and join me at The High Calling]
Most workplaces thrive on competition. Especially – especially – law firms. I happen to know.
After sixteen years of working at one of the largest and most competitive law firms on the planet, I’ve come to accept the inevitable: my work is often a zero sum game.
Someone has to win. Someone has to lose. Welcome to the profession.
This reality hit me hard last week after a successful jury trial. I extended my hand to the losing party, but he pulled away with anger and harsh words. (His wife also gave me a big scowl.) What was I expecting, a hug? After all, the goal in court is to win, not to make nice.
Court isn’t the only place lawyers compete. We compete for clients. We compete for talent. We compete with other lawyers. We compete on behalf of our clients. So why should internal competition be any different?
[Click here to continue reading at The High Calling]
I’ll never forget how hard it was to wait. Those last two days and two nights seemed like an eternity.
What could be taking the jury so long? Hadn’t we put on a solid defense? Was it really that close? And what kind of system puts an important dispute in the hands of eight complete strangers?
I was starting to second-guess myself.
[Join me at The High Calling to continue]